My Life In Pin Curls (Or, How A Second Date That Never Happened Gave Me A Revelation About "Wasting" Beauty)

Beauty is what you don’t rinse off at night before bed. The rest is just styling. They don’t sell beauty-removing wipes at the drugstore.
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Pia Glenn
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Beauty is what you don’t rinse off at night before bed. The rest is just styling. They don’t sell beauty-removing wipes at the drugstore.

A few nights ago, I went on a first date. It was the kind of rare occurrence in my largely romance-free life that made me feel like I had pulled a "Freaky Friday" and jumped into someone else’s body, wondering who might be prancing around in mine and what they were up to.

But ultimately who cares, because I was on a date and it was a great one! If you’ve read my previous writing here you might know that I am someone who is interested in having a relationship and who has not been lucky in love. You might also recall me writing about the guy I dated last year, at both the beginning and at the end, and if for whatever reason anyone cares to do the math on those posts (there hasn’t been anyone else since) you’ll know that it’s been a minute. And I was excited.

The date was with someone I had connected with online a little under two years ago. Communication fell off while I was dating the guy last year and for many months afterward, but in recent weeks it leapt back to life just as I was moving across the country and we’d finally be in the same city, purely by coincidence of timing.

Tentative arrangements were made to meet up a second time. I had my usual stress about putting together a Date Outfit, but I’m such a planner by nature that if a plan is not certain, it’s hard for me to “get ready” for it. So Date Outfit stress became Maybe Date Outfit So I Don’t Want To Potentially Waste A True Date Outfit But Still Hopefully Date Outfit Stress.

And that’s even before my hair and makeup anxiety sets in.

On a scale of Whoopi Goldberg to Kim Kardashian, I’m closer to a Kim in terms of hair, makeup, and styling intensity, but I’m not all the way at that end of the spectrum and I’ve definitely grown out of being dependent on it. It isn’t optional when I’m working as an actor, but I definitely have long stretches of bare-faced and ponytailed head nudity. I have many insecurities, but gone are the high school and college days of wearing makeup to the gym and such shenanigans. No judgment if this is you, but I definitely grew up wearing makeup and excessive getups  (and acrylic nails -- EGADS!) as a mask or a shield and I am grateful to have progressed to a place where I’m certainly not at the promised land of being 100% comfortable with who I am, but I’m much further along. 

Also, working out in makeup is just really bad for your skin. So whatever false sense of beauty it might have instilled in that moment, after sweating through my dance classes or whatever exercise fad I was into in the 90s it would end up doing more harm than good.

That said, I am definitely a makeup wearer when it comes to professional situations and romantic encounters. With makeup, as with all things styling, I’ve worked to find a happy medium and wear my looks out of desire, not necessity. No one NEEDS to wear makeup. Or to wear a certain outfit or hairstyle or to even have hair on their head at all. To me, none of this has anything to do with beauty; not a thing. Beauty is what you don’t rinse off at night before bed. The rest is just styling. They don’t sell beauty-removing wipes at the drugstore. Accentuating my facial features with makeup, or changing up my overall look, are more skills than attributes. 

When we went on the first date, it had been on “maybe we’ll meet up” status at first, and I didn’t do anything special to my hair. OF COURSE I thought about it, but between the uncertainty of the rendezvous and having just moved, I begrudgingly chose getting yet another box unpacked and rocking a five-minute high bun than taking the time to Do My Hair. The second date was still not set in stone, but I decided to tell the universe that it would indeed come to pass through my powers of hair styling and obsessive, exhausting perfectionism. I went in for the Full Monty of my hairstyles: Soft, touchable curls that I’d pre-set in pin curls.

Nearly done, almost ready.

Nearly done, almost ready.

I’m often perceived as visually “put-together” or styled in a way that is unapproachable and untouchable. Here I was, blessed with the very real possibility of my first second date in over a year and a half and goshdarnit I wanted to be touchable! I wanted to have shaken-out hair that I could casually flip and tuck behind one ear as I leaned in for a conspiratorial chuckle at some shared observation, and maybe it would fall from behind my ear and my date would reach out and tuck it back again and just then a bluebird would flutter in and land on my outstretched index finger and the bluebird and I would sing a lovely duet and then my date would join in on the third verse and I would wonder how he knew the song too but immediately stop worrying about that because suddenly we’d be harmonizing in perfect major triads and then we’d kiss I mean my date and I would kiss, not me and the bird although you know what maybe a little peck on the cheek which of course would be a literal peck in this case coming from a bird and actually now that I think about it that could leave a mark so maybe not…

I don’t usually go off to fairytale land, but then again I don’t usually go on dates either so maybe I let my mind wander a bit as I got ready. 

For my “casual,” touchable hairstyle, it takes about an hour and a half to blow out, curl, and set the pin curls. I don’t do it that frequently—I just don’t have that kind of time. Although to be honest, if I did somehow have that kind of time to spare with regularity, I would use it to do something far more constructive than style my hair.

I generally plan my outfits the night before and give any questionable items test runs. Tight pants? Let’s put those on and sit down, bend over, and reach for something on a high shelf. Low cut or strapless top? How ‘bout we put on the appropriate bra and jump up and down a few times and apply double-sided tape where need be.

So. Much. Thinking. So. Much. Planning. 

How about feeling like I look good simply because I’m alive? How about disabusing myself of the notion that I should be scared of “wasting” an outfit or a pair of shoes or even a fun hairstyle? These are the things I was thinking as I walked through Union Square Park that night, disappointed and alone. The whole night passed and I never got a returned text or phone call. I was halfway done-up, hair pinned against the humidity to be shaken out as soon as I was invited to get in the game, cute outfit inappropriately cut short at the ankles since I was wearing sensible flats and had my stilettos safely tucked away in my bag. I shudder at not wearing the right shoes with the right outfit, but the streets are merciless on thin heels and I made that choice not with my foot comfort in mind, but simply to take better care of my shoes.

Yes, I take better care of my shoes than I take of myself. When I gave that outfit a test run, I felt cute. But here I was actively wearing only most of it. Not choosing to enjoy the many friends and activities I was in the midst of in downtown NYC because I had “gotten ready” for something else. Waiting for a call that never came to be told to get in the game when in fact we’re joining this program already in progress. Life is happening every minute and it really isn’t waiting for me to get exactly the right flip on my bangs. And if I make the choice to spend it wearing a practice outfit while toting around what I really want to wear and who I really want to be hidden away in my shoulder bag as “protection,” life will march right along while I’m busy “getting ready.”

Finally let my hair down, at home alone at 2AM.

Finally let my hair down, at home alone at 2AM.

Sometimes you think you’re further along in a personal struggle than you are, and life makes that disparity loud and clear. That’s me today. Yes, I had allowed myself the silly imaginings, but we know there’s no fairy tale. The “promised land of being 100% comfortable with who I am,” as I called it, is just that, but I won’t get closer to it if I don’t let down my hair and get in the game of my own accord, without waiting to be invited. I can sleep comfortably with my hair pinned, so this cycle has previously lasted days.

I had really enjoyed myself on that first date. And while I was having such a good time, I wasn’t exactly thrilled with my high bun and there was no cutesy flippage, but I wasn’t obsessed with it because I was having such a good time on the first date.

I know that this has been an especially girly journey through styling and not everyone is into that, but I think lots of us are in figurative pin curls of some sort, dipping a toe into fully being present in favor of waiting for an ideal circumstance.

I’m wasting so much of my life in pin curls, not fully embracing life in the moment because of how fantastic and flippable it will be in some imagined future that may or may not come. No matter how perfect the prep, I can’t predict the future. What I thought might happen might not, and that’s OK. Less-than-perfect hair is OK. Even the pin curls are OK if I choose to rock them as a style on their own, and not just some stopover on the way to OK. I just have to make up my mind.

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Tweet me at @PiaGlenn.